As we continue our look at each potential candidate for Governor in 2006, we turn the Colorado Pols eye to Colorado State Treasurer, Mike Coffman.
We're going to start off with a confession: going into this, we don't know a whole lot about Mike Coffman. Maybe it's because his steady rise through Colorado politics, while impressive, has not been flashy. You'd think someone with Coffman's record of electoral success, a guy who is clearly on a path to higher office, would stick out in our mind. Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case with Mike Coffman.
Nevertheless, on we go.
Along with Marc Holtzman and Jane Norton, Mike Coffman is currently considered one of the "Big Three" Republicans are touting for their nomination. For Republicans, including Coffman on this list is a no-brainer. Coffman has been on a steady rise through the ranks of the Republican party. He served in state House and Senate, he's won two statewide races as Treasurer and he has an impressive official bio. He served in both the Army and the Marines, and took a leave from the legislature in 1990 to serve in the infantry in Desert Storm.
Coffman's conservative credentials are pretty strong as well. For example, he stuck with Bob Schaffer last year, even after the Guv panicked and leapt behind the brewer. Bill Armstrong seems to be somewhat of a mentor to Coffman and once said to the Rocky:
"Mike Coffman is someone the Republican Party and the people of Colorado will rally around. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be on the short list for whatever comes along - it could be governor, it could be Senator, it could be Congress."
To some Republicans, this kind of background makes him Mighty Mike. And, as Armstrong indicated, Coffman's name has been mentioned for a number of seats. First, Coffman started to run for Congress in the new 7th District. But, when the final redistricting plan was handed down, Coffman was a few blocks out of the 7th. After raising over $100,000, he decided not to pull up his tent stakes and move into the District. Did he not want to move his family, or were there other incentives for him to stay out? That's pure speculation on our part, but if he really wanted to run, moving isn't that hard.
Coffman was touted as a possible U.S. Senate contender when Campbell bowed out last year. Also, and it seems Armstrong was behind this a bit, Mighty Mike was talked up as mounting a primary challenge to Tom Tancredo in the 6th in 2004. Publicly citing Tancredo's broken term limits pledge, and privately because the old-guard Republican establishment in Colorado is embarrassed by the guy, many were urging a Coffman primary challenge in 6. And, Coffman made some noise about doing it, then dropped the matter.
So, what we have on our hands is a candidate conservatives in Colorado would like, he's got a background of wining statewide and he's a veteran. You combine this with the fact that Mighty Mike has been diligently making the rounds to Republican leaders and party members, doing all the right meetings and he has a fundraising base from which to work, what's not to like about his chances in a Republican primary and then a general election for Governor in 2006?
Well, name recognition for one. Yes, he's won statewide races for Treasurer, but he's not coming into this with his name on Colorado voters' lips. He may have higher name recognition than Marc Holtzman today, but wealthy Mini-Marc can turn that around pretty quickly with dollars. And, we're betting Lt. Gov. Jane Norton is better known right now among voters.
This far out, name recognition should not be a problem - that's why you raise money and spend it. But, it could be for Mighty Mike given his reputation for being a less than memorable presence. All the money in the world might not be able to overcome a candidate viewed as dull. This is especially true in a primary where you need to whip the partisans and base into a frenzy to go out and work against other people in their same party.
Depending on who else gets into the race, the Republicans may have a crowded primary field. When you have a wealthy newcomer, a Lt. Governor possibly in that field, the drab Treasurer might not rise above, regardless of a strong back-story.
We feel that Mighty Mike is starting to make the moves necessary to put himself into contention. His fundraising is showing signs of life, as are his meeting with Party leaders and regulars. To be successful, we think the candidate is going to have to show some signs of life as well.